Lessons Gleaned from the International Content Summit

By December 1st, 2011

We in the content industry tend to go to a lot of conferences. And there are a lot of conferences about content. With the vast changes in technology, everyone in the field wants to know the ins and outs of content and content strategy to better service their client needs. That’s perfectly understandable. But it also leads to something we’re starting to call The Conference Bubble: if you stay inside of it for too long, you tend to stop experiencing the outside world. The real world. And that disconnect is not good for content providers and it’s especially not good for their clients. It’s disastrous. In the end, the conference was really about a big idea and that was: quality over quantity. It’s something we preach at Spafax and it’s nice to know that after a few years of everyone trying to parcel out content in the shiniest baubles

At the recent International Content Summit, held in London, we were lucky enough to hear some compelling stories from the trenches (there’s more on the “big idea” from the conference here, at Sparksheet).

People Still Like Print

This is perhaps self-evident but you wouldn’t know it from The Conference Bubble. At least conferences that are about “content” or “content marketing.” The irony, of course, is that many of the speakers at these conferences are published authors pushing their books. Irony, another inconvenient truth.

Richard Cope, Global Head of Insight at Mintel, called print a status symbol. He said research has shown that “we still need to carry badges and emblems of taste” and that print fulfils that function. (This thinking went into the relaunch of Air Canada’s enRoute – we wanted to make it “printier” and also speaks to the sumptuous feel of our print media for Bombardier Business Aircraft, among others). An iPad may say something about us but a magazine says something specific. And then he put numbers to something we all understand intuitively: 42% of people consume print for “long journeys” (this is a UK study so take that to mean train trips) and 71% would rather read print than online. This stat was one of the most retweeted from the conference. For obvious reasons. Reading is a luxury, or should be qualified as such, because time is the new luxury, and it is relatively accessible, just like reading. Print might be on the way to niche status but it is an aspirational niche, and anything aspirational is also marketable.

These insights jibe closely to what we at Spafax have been saying for a while now: print is still important and a key component of a multi-channel communication strategy. Speaking of multi-channels….

What Hath the Touchscreen Wrought?

Nothing. It’s great. The Telegraph’s Mark Challinor even showed off the “nightmode” button on their app – a smart idea, brought on by user analytics (that is, a good number of their subscribers read the newspaper on their iPad in bed).  In good news for people who like to make money, the Telegraph’s studies have also found that readers like ads because it gives the newspaper app “a premium feel.” This goes back to the great thing about ads in print: readers have long found that ads are “content” as opposed to something they can skip over, a fact that has long explained the mammoth sizes (and success) of the fall fashion books. And Richard Cope asked a question that lingered long after he had asked it: Is the touch screen dulling our sense of touch or reawakening it? I’ll be thinking about that one for a long time.

One Brand, One Voice

Ruth Spencer, Head of Loyalty, for Boots (the largest drugstore chain in the UK and the home of one of the world’s great integrated content programs) affirmed that her company is “absolutely a content company.” And with a wide-ranging content strategy that embraces almost every form of media she insisted that her content must: be consistent, get integration right and play to each channels’ strengths. Meaning, quite often, one photo shoot for print, digital, in-store, you name it. What this says, really, is no silos, something I’ve touched on earlier. By employing a brand strategy without silos, Boots wins. And they do. Their program is something to behold.

Customer Loyalty

Myf Ryan, GM Marketing for Westfield UK, a large shopping mall developer, spoke of launching an enormous new mall in a relatively depressed section of East End London during the current economic climate. Westfield did this through the power of storytelling. That is, they gave a shopping mall that didn’t exist a backstory and then sold that story (as opposed to selling a mall) with stunning success. But more importantly, Ryan realized that any audience is “not channel loyal, they are content loyal” – so her story was consistent over multiple channels. More importantly, she said “Don’t tell a story about the brand, tell compelling stories that embody your brand” – something any good content marketer tries to get their clients to understand every day. The best brand stories are the ones the audience wants to be a part of, after all. No one really cares about a brand. Just what it can do for them. Brands that understand that are successful.

All great examples of good content done well. But more than that, all great examples of smart strategy in the service of great content working toward the same goal. It is really what all content marketing should strive for.